Longtime readers of Syntax of Things know that I did not begin this site with the intentions of making it a lit blog or a music blog or any type of blog. Instead, I was looking for a way to keep my relationship with my wife a happy and healthy one. Elaine (Ms. SoT) describes me as an opinionated snob, as someone who can hurt another's feelings without intending just by saying how bad or dumb or worthless another book or movie or, most often, musician might be. Of course, I usually preface my opinions with the fact that they are just that. But Elaine tends to take things personally and our dinner conversations would often end in silence after a promise to never bring up music or movies or anything ever again.
Thus, over two years ago, I opened up a Blogger account. At the time, I intended to make it a place to share my opinions without constraint. Of course, I realized that my wife would be reading, so I felt a need to hold back some. I knew that one thing especially could collapse the blog's fourth wall and add to a continuing and often ugly argument that we inevitably would have.
Elaine loves Madonna. For her, the Material Girl is an icon, a
happy part of an often sad childhood. She recalls spending
Saturday evenings inventing dance routines and lipsynching along to an
entire Madonna album. I knew the consequences of trampling on this
idol, but I couldn't avoid it.
Now that she has a new album out, Confessions on the Dance Floor,
I've decided to prove that I'm willing to open my mind, if only just a
small crack, and try out that which I most dislike. And to
further prove that I'm not all about slamming Esther, I've asked Elaine to temper my review with one of her own. So below, you'll
find the first ever Syntax of Things dueling review. Keep in mind that I could
only bear to listen to this CD once, so I wrote as I listened.
Also remember that I recently quit smoking, and I had to fight more
than a nicotine fit once this album was over. That said, I'll
step aside and let my amazing wife give a brief introduction.
Ms. SoT: Let me preface this first by saying this cd has been in either my car, my disc drive at work, or on the computer here at home for the past week or so. For many reasons really, but foremost because I’ve been giving this “project”, if you will, some serious thought. I mean, come on, I got the cd the day it was released! Thank God Jeff was in D.C. or else I would have had to keep it more of a secret. It’s not like I would have had a solid evening’s worth of time, free of comments and sarcasm, to see what I thought about it. But, because he was away, I did.
One last thing before I give my ever so humble opinion – I’ll admit that I’m a bit biased. I have followed and admired Madonna’s career since I was a wee little 4th grader! We’re talking 1984, and I’ll be the fist to admit that I was very impressionable….At that time, for me, it was all about Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna. To top it off, I had a best friend whom loved her as much as I did, and that just opened the door to many future years of discussions, dancing, etc.. So, to see Madge evolve, grow, even regress, and become who she is today has been quite entertaining and interesting to me.
Mr. SoT: This is the first single from the album. I'm not sure I would start an album with the lyrics "Time goes by so slowly." That's pretty much the last thing I want to hear at this point. Very repetitive. There's definitely that disco orchestra feel to this one. Lots of cliches. Three minutes in and I'm itching to hit FF. Two minutes to go. Ah, the bridge. Distant rumbling of a drum machine. Now a ticking clock. Now here comes the orchestra again. Third verse, same as the...
Ms. SoT: This is the first single and I’ll admit upon my first listen I wasn’t too engaged. It honestly didn’t strike a chord with me at all. But, I know enough from my experience that this feeling can be fleeting and I was willing enough to just shrug it off and see if that feeling would change. And lo-and-behold, it did! I like it….It's catchy, it makes my foot tap uncontrollably, and the video has left me with some thoughts of Madonna that I never thought I would have. She’s getting older (aren’t we all!) and maybe she shouldn’t be sporting those tight leotards. She’s got a rockin’ body for her age, but her stylist should have sat her down for this one…. It’s kind of weird.
Mr. SoT: An alarm clock. More about time. I guess this might be part of the album's theme. "Confusion." This is a better song than the opener. Very European disco. Again, over five minutes. Come on, Madge, edit. I think she's offering herself as a solution to "the confusion." Confusion over what? Could be love. After all, "love at first sight is an illusion."
Ms. SoT: My favorite song on the cd. This is very
reminiscent of the sound from her Erotica album. I like it. I like the
lyrics, “I searched, I searched, I searched my whole life. To find,
find, find the secret. But all I did was open up my eyes.” A message
and a good beat. This one took me the first time I heard it, which,
I’ll admit is rare. It just makes me want to go to a club, drink in one
hand and the other pulling my girlfriends out to the dance floor with
Mr. SoT: We get bilingual Madonna. "I'm sorry" in any language is still "I'm sorry." So, is she going to apologize for all of those years of bad music, bad movies, bad nudity? Nope, she thinks someone should apologize to her, but she doesn't want to hear it. "Talk is cheap." This song is pretty damn boring. More foreign tongues. At this point in the album I have one question: "Was a real instrument used?"
Ms. SoT: Just a dancey little tune. Nothing more,
nothing less. It doesn’t resonate with me at all. It only makes me
wonder who is she referring to. Guy? ? The chorus does get a bit
redundant, but it’s a dance song, and that’s usually going to be the
Mr. SoT: This one might have a story. I hear some mention of religion. Could this be the Kabbalah song? She wants me to forget my problems and let her be my guide. But I have to put aside my pride. Pot...kettle. I'm trying to follow her, but the bass is drowning out everything. Oh, she's going to tell me about love. This reminds me of a disco version of a Yes song. Not a bad tune. A little more industrial than disco toward the end and shorter than the previous songs which earns points.
Ms. SoT: All that really I can say that I like about this song is her humming (or ahhhing, rather) in the background. If you listen to the song, you’ll know what I speak of. That part, alone, is pretty. But, I’m not digging on all the talking. Give me some singing already!
5-I Love New York
Mr. SoT: So #4 segues directly into this one. Ah, a love song for New York. She doesn't like cities, but she loves New York; other cities make her "feel like a dork." Apparently she doesn't much care for LA, Paris, and London. They make her mad and sad. How many words rhyme with sad? Oh no, here we go. "If you don't like my attitude, you can f off." This is the Madonna that I can't stand. Fox hunting in the English countryside one minute; tagging buildings with her homies the next. This song is horrible.
Ms. SoT: By far the worst song, I feel. The lyrics are trite and thoughtless. Cities are making her feel like a dork? Or is that the only thing she could come up with to rhyme with York? Dreadful. She can keep this one…
6-Let It Will Be
Mr. SoT: Is that a violin? In this song, we're going to hear about success and fame or so she tells us. Violin soon gives way to the overworked computer. I don't think I know enough about Madonna to get what she's aiming at with this one. Maybe nothing, that's why I should just "let it be." I'm guessing that this song sets up the second half of the album. We'll see.
Ms. SoT: I like this one too. It makes me happy to listen to it. It makes me crave getting dressed up with my girlies and put on lots of make up and to have that Sex In the City night/theme happen… Nothing special going on in her words, but I recently saw her in an interview and she stated that her motive for this album was to make an album that you can put on from start to finish and dance to….and this song is fits motive through and through.
Mr. SoT: Cheeky title. Now the computer is singing. I guess this is the easiest way to find session musicians. Powered by Dell. This is a love song. And with it, some of the worst cliches imaginable. "Once upon a time, there was a boy, there was a girl..." I can't figure out what was forbidden about the love. Did Guy's friends tell him that this woman could ruin his career? Oh, but he didn't listen. Poor Guy. Thankfully, the songs are getting shorter.
Ms. SoT: I bet she’s talking about her hubby, Guy. It’s sweet. I like to think that she really felt this way when she met him. ”Just one smile on your face was all it took to change my fortune. Just one word from your mouth was all I needed to be certain. Hearts that intertwine, they lived in a different kind of world.” Again, a good beat, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Mr. SoT: Madonna doesn't like to wait in one place. Waste of her time. The solution? Jumping. I hear a little autobiography in this one. She mentions her sisters and the only thing one can depend on is family. How that ties in to jumping I haven't a clue.
Ms. SoT: Immediately I like her deep voice. She’s not one that I would say to myself, “Man, that woman has an incredible voice” but, she knows how to work what she has and make it work well. Hey, I didn’t even know she had sisters and I call my self a fan?!
Mr. SoT: Get it? If she tells you to Jump (see 8), you ask "How High?" Oh, here we go. The complaints about fame. Was her lifelong effort to be in the spotlight worth it? And, more importantly, will any of this fame matter? I think she's speaking to me, too. People that mention her name are often not very nice. Poor Madonna. Well, this song is the worst so far. Might as well just turn the drum machine on and push one key on the keyboard. Boring.
Ms. SoT: Other than being the name of a movie, this one
doesn’t speak to me. But, I do think that I feel her honesty in the
lyrics. Specifically, “It’s funny, I spent my whole life wanting to be
talked about. I did it. Just about everything to see my name in
lights.” Lots of computer aided sounds here, too. Sometimes it works,
but most of the time it doesn’t and I think that she may lean on this
Mr. SoT: Hmm, a tempo change. Ah, this is the Kabbalah song I've been waiting for. A Hebrew prayer, sounds like. And a guitar? First appearance by one of those. Lots of talk of angels, heavens, earth being hell. I think if I close my eyes, I'll be able to see Madonna in a leotard. Oh wait. There's a little bit of a bridge in this one. And then it's back to the Kabbalah talk. Can you imagine people dancing to this song? It would be like Cher singing one of the Psalms.
Ms. SoT: Hell yeah, I love the sound, lyrics and beat
of…what is this? An Islamic based singer/sound intertwined with hers?
If this song came on, I wouldn’t fast forward it. It just is different
and it feels like there’s some history blended in and when Sting did
it, I liked it then and I like it now. Simple as that!
Mr. SoT: Is this a J.Lo cover? Is that a nod to the Police? Now that we've been told to jump, we have to be reminded that we should keep pushing her. If only... This one has a little of the old school Madonna feel to it. Not bad, and short.
Ms. SoT: This one could be about her children or her
husband. This song has an “old school” Madonna feel to it and I can
appreciate that. It’s short and it’s simple. Thumbs up.
12-Like It or Not
Mr. SoT: Is this a question? Once again, the defiant Madonna. Sticks and stones, she says. I guess this is the perfect time to say that this album is about what I expected. The opinionated ahole in me says that it's a good hour of my life that I won't get back. To use another cliche, since that seems to be Madonna's songwriting approach, this just ain't my cup of tea. I did find myself tapping my foot a few times, but mostly I sighed my way through this album. And this final song is dreadful.
Ms. SoT: Very, very good beat. Not too fast, not too slow. She’s saying here, “Hey, take me who I am. Like it or leave it.” I can relate to that and I’m sure the older I get the more I’ll subscribe to this philosophy. It’s a good song to end the album with.